I DON’T WANT TO WRITE THIS ESSAY, but I am compelled beyond my capacity to ignore. I write this essay for every parent who doesn’t know about this threat to their children. I write it for anyone, anywhere that might just know the person or people this is intended for. I know they’re out there, I just don’t know who they are. And I write this because my daughter, Mila, who died by suicide on May 10th, 2021, insists that I do.
Suicide is multifactorial. A vile symphony of parts that come together in the mighty clash of a finale. I will share with you the story of our daughter, Mila. Illuminated and iridescent Mila. Soft hearted Mila. Funny Mila. A girl with a mind capable of feats beyond a mere mortal. She was a champion of the underdog, a girl who never understood cruelty for gain. She played hockey and rugby and milked cows and wrote stories. She was the shepherdess of barn cats and the milker of devoted cows.
She loved board games (winning board games, mostly) and raw cream and she loved her sisters and her family.
Mila who, in a matter of less than six months, tried smoking marijuana for the first time, became addicted, developed marijuana induced psychosis, and took her own life.
“Took her own life.” Really? In the anguished months since that time, that part still seems a lie. She did that? Mila? The grounded, happy, common-sense girl did that? It’s a misalignment of facts, but not because I’m in denial – there is no denial in the world I live in. It’s a misalignment of facts because I wonder who was in control of the gears in her brain when she died. Her??
When someone ends the life of another, we have degrees for it. We use different words depending on whether they were in their right mind. If the murder was planned, for how long, and how intricately? Or were they responsible for a murder, but not in their mind? Circumstance dictates whether we label it manslaughter or murder in the first or second or third degree. When someone ends their own life, it was them, they did it and that’s that.
Only with our daughter, it wasn’t her. It was a ravaged brain, hijacked by a product that masquerades as the innocuous pot we knew growing up. That innocent joint, ridiculously ridiculed, passed around at a Van Halen concert, a puff or two each. That joint that had somewhere between 2-4% THC. How could pot be anything but a good time? That’s certainly what the mammoth cannabis industry wants us all to believe as they expand into ever-growing markets.
Those joints, that marijuana flower, are not what many of these kids are smoking today. They’re smoking distillates and vapes and resins and waxes and dabs and things called shatter. They’re smoking laboratory creations meant to drive addiction and set off dopamine avalanches in their still-developing brains. These products – some in the 99% THC content range – are meant for obliteration, not a gentle groove to some mellow beats. They’re a laboratory creation meant to addict. They want us coming back for more.
In the late autumn of 2020, Mila wrote in her diary about her frustration with lockdowns and her dwindling friend group. According to the mandates in our province, she wasn’t supposed to be socializing at all. Some parents forbade their kids from participating in the clandestine friend gatherings. In her small friend group, their get togethers often involved smoking and consuming drugs. She wrote of her boyfriend, and other friends, always being high on pens and that she was “pissed off” because their limited interactions were wasteful for her – other kids high and laughing and her sitting there “bored”.
Pens, as we have come to learn, are the vaping pens that many of the teenagers in our area purchase from the First Nations reservation, a place they call “the rez”. There, pot shops are run openly without governmental oversight. These stores look like Apple stores, glossy and white and legitimate. These kids, and in fact many of the adults that frequent these stores, have no idea that the products on the shelves are not tested or regulated. Many of the kids here have figured out which stores don’t require ID and will make “runs” to make bulk pot purchases.
In a regulated cannabis store in Canada, there are limits on quantities that can be purchased and the amount of THC a product can contain. The labelling and testing of the product must fall within government parameters. In “the rez” pot shops, none of that exists. Kids without ID can purchase as much product as they want of whatever they want. I asked the police how this continues and was told, “politics”. In the next breath, from the same policeman, I was told that it is known in the policing community that these shops are connected to organized crime that involves human trafficking, gun running, and more.
In November of 2020, Mila wrote, again in her diary, of trying the pen for the first time and “loving it”. A month later she wrote that she couldn’t sleep anymore. Within a few weeks she was using the pens every day – and then throughout the night, to fall back to sleep. All her normal brainwave patterns and hormones were askew. The artificial surge in dopamine would crash her dopamine levels below baseline and she would feel unbelievably despondent and need to raise those levels again. Soon enough, the deadly combination of her unique biochemistry and these diabolical lab concoctions melded to yield insomnia, irrational thinking, and hallucinations. But her friends all seemed fine – so it couldn’t be the drugs, right?
All of these things were well hidden from us. We knew there was something wrong, but when we spoke to her, she chalked it up to Covid lockdowns and her concerns about her future. She wouldn’t get vaccinated, which meant that while her friends were excitedly planning where they would live in the residence buildings, she was looking at rental places to live in alone, off campus. It was an incredibly difficult time to be in her grade 12 year with so many unknowns. Hockey – a sport she had played since she was four years old – had ended, as had rugby. Sports were another victim of mandates. We could understand her level of stress, and so her explanations seemed reasonable.
Then she decided she didn’t want to go to university at all. Then she wanted to travel the world. Then she wanted to move out east. For a young woman who’d always been incredibly responsible and surefooted, her decisions were puzzling to us. When we tried to speak to her about her weight loss and her moodiness, she insisted it was because of all the above. Final exams and the stress of not knowing … and maybe she shouldn’t even go to university. We encouraged her to take a year off, let things settle down with Covid restrictions, save up some cash. She had always been amazingly mature, honest, and responsible. We had no reason to believe anything else was going on beyond what we discussed.
In the new year, she was caught skipping school and had privileges taken away. It was the first time she had ever been in any real trouble. A week later she told us she was moving out. We were flabbergasted. Her older sisters were stunned. All of us spoke with her, tried to figure out what was happening. She broke up with her long-term boyfriend and then was devastated that she’d done so. We spent hours and hours trying to understand what was going on. We spoke. We listened. We struggled to find sense in a voice that didn’t even seem familiar.
To all of us in our family, she insisted that she wanted to spend the last few months of grade 12 closer to the city, living with a friend, so she could have a more robust social life. She had always loved living in the country, loved the animals and nature, but now it was only “limiting”. She wanted out. It was so unusual and out of character for her. Of course, in hindsight, knowing that she was chronically using pens and edibles and her brain was no longer clear and rational, it makes sense. But at the time, none of us understood what was happening.
She moved into her friend’s house and the drug use increased exponentially. When I tell you of things she said in her diary, it’s not because we had to go looking for it. She left it for us. She wrote notes to us in it. She wanted us to have it. She was often so obliterated by these “pens” that she, an honour roll student and a kid with a 98% average, couldn’t spell or form words in its pages. She left us her diary because I believe that she knew we wouldn’t have ever understood otherwise.
When they told us she was dead I was certain she had been murdered. There could be no other explanation. Nothing else was even within the realm of possibility.
In her diary, she writes about things she’s seeing and hearing. Later, her friends told us about her calling them, terrified and shut in a closet, because she believed there were people outside of it trying to hurt her. They also told me that our house was haunted and shared stories of what she told them. When I asked them why they didn’t say anything or recognize that as her needing help they said, “I thought she could see ghosts.”
They thought she could see ghosts.
I can think of no better sentence to exemplify the woeful education we have given our young people when we decided to legalize this drug in our country. Her friends had no idea how much trouble she was in. But even I didn’t know any of this before. We have two older daughters who didn’t have access to these highly concentrated products when they were teens. Pot wasn’t legal then. They smoked pot a few times, could take it or leave it. I was never a fan, but didn’t think much else of it. I didn’t even really care if they legalized it. I figured it was the same stuff I had smoked back in the day, only now it would be regulated and safe. But that’s not at all true.
Calling these highly refined and concentrated resins and edibles “marijuana” is like calling opium a poppy or crack a coca plant. They’re nothing of the sort. In fact, there’s no marijuana flower even in the final product of these pens and edibles and dabs and whatever else they sell. Instead, a genetically engineered plant has been highly processed, and the THC extracted with solvents and then chemically manipulated into a super concentrated offering meant for maximum effect. The marijuana
business is a mammoth behemoth, a multi-billion-dollar industry.
There are endless studies on the growing prevalence of cannabis-induced psychosis, which in 50% of the cases progresses into schizophrenia. I could show you all manner of references to studies (including ones on this topic and a whole host of other side effects) of using these concentrated THC products … I could introduce you to the thousands upon thousands of parents who have come together in support groups to grieve their beautiful children who died by suicide after having their brains hijacked by THC … and I could point you to the books written by the heartbroken and the fed up.
What I can’t do is point you to the governmental resources for kids, and that’s why I’m writing this. It’s the only reason I’m writing this. If I – a pretty savvy Mum when it comes to everything from organic food to the goings-on of my kids to the chemicals in the synthetic clothing I avoided for them – could be so blindsided, it can happen to anyone. And I want it to happen to no one. Ever. Again.
In the last few weeks of Mila’s life, she couldn’t sleep for more than a few minutes at a time. She reached out to a drug counsellor at her school and shared her delusions and hallucinations with him. He told her to moderate her usage. That’s the model they use, “moderation”. She was having a medical emergency and it was missed. A week later, feeling there was something more serious with what she had shared with him, the counsellor tried to reach out to her. It was too late.
On the morning of her death, our daughter called a drug addiction crisis line. They said they would email her a link to a drug program. She wrote of the conversation in her diary. “Too little, too late” she said. The link came via email the day after her death.
What is most excruciating to us is that in the end, she saw herself as irredeemable. Broken. Messed up. She was so deeply lost in a mind run amok that she couldn’t even recognize the difference between herself and the poison pulsing through her body, overriding her beautiful brain, stealing her sense and her peace and her joy. Instead, she saw it as her utter failing at life. Inescapable.
And now this is how we live our days. Every day, every moment. Inescapable. And still, we must love and be open to love. This essay is me loving even in the pain. My deepest desire is to have these words find the person they are intended for. My hope is that some of you might look into this yourselves … might read some stories from other parents … might come to understand what is happening to too many of our bright and beautiful souls. It is trite to say, if one person can be saved, it’s worth it. I don’t want one person. I want every single one of those beauties ripped back from the clutches of a greedy industry gone wild. Every one.
Please share this information if it’s within you to share. Please talk about this with your children. There are a myriad of resources available. I don’t need your sympathy – this is not about me. I ask, instead, for your efforts to educate yourselves, to protect and educate your babies, and to inform others on the realities of what is no longer “just pot”.
Lastly, this is not a debate. Smoke pot if you want, I really don’t care. If you do, hopefully you can see beyond your defences of a habit to a bigger picture that involves the futures and safety of our young. I’m not here to judge anyone’s choices, I’m here to spread this very intimate and painful part of our lives because I am being asked to, because it’s the right thing to do, and because Mila has been speaking to my heart.
For you, Mila. I did as you asked.
As I said, suicide is multi-factorial, and we believe that the circumstances around Covid, including limitations on socializing, the closing of schools where we live, the ending of sports activities, and the restrictions on Mila’s future plans for university, all played a role in setting the stage for her use of high THC vaping pens and the chemicals in those pens were her annihilation. We believe that the Covid mandates and shutdowns set the stage for Mila’s use of THC.
FOLLOW TARA ON HER SUBSTACK ‘SLOWDOWNFARMSTEAD.COM’ WHERE YOU CAN FIND THIS ARTICLE (WITH INCLUDED LINKS TO NUMEROUS RESOURCES, ARTICLES AND STUDIES) PLUS MUCH MORE.